New Delhi: A day after a Pakistani court sentenced Mumbai terror attack accused Hafiz Saeed to 11 years for terror financing, India expressed scepticism about the “efficacy” of the decision since it was made on the eve of the plenary meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), while the US welcomed it as an “important step forward”.
On Wednesday, Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Saeed was sentenced to 11 years in jail by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan in two terror financing cases. These are not, however, related to the Mumbai terror attack conspiracy cases, which are currently stuck in legal quagmire.
The first response from the US was one of appreciation. “Today’s conviction of Hafiz Saeed and his associate is an important step forward – both toward holding LeT accountable for its crimes, and for #Pakistan in meeting its international commitments to combat terrorist financing,” said an initialled tweet on behalf of US state department’s principal deputy assistant secretary, bureau of South and Central Asian affairs, Alice G. Wells on Wednesday.
She also referred to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s remarks that it was in the interest of his country to “not allow non-state actors to operate from its soil”.
— State_SCA (@State_SCA) February 12, 2020
While Washington welcomed the court decision, Indian officials expressed scepticism about the sustainability of the process, inferring that Pakistan only took a tough step ahead of the next plenary meeting of the FATF, the international money laundering and terror funding watchdog.
Unlike the US, there was, however, no official response from India yet, with sources preferring to give their initial reaction on background.
Stating that it was part of a “long pending” obligation of Pakistan to “end support for terrorism”, government sources said, “The decision has been made on the eve of FATF Plenary meeting, which has to be noted. Hence, the efficacy of this decision remains to be seen.” India has, so far, remained consistently dubious about any visible steps taken by Pakistan against terror groups in the past few years.
The next plenary meeting of FATF will be held in Paris from February 16 to 23.
At the last meeting in October 2019, Pakistan which has been ‘grey listed’ for over an year, had got a final reprieve of four months to avoid being ‘blacklisted’ if it implemented reforms to prevent money laundering and terror. FATF had “strongly urge(d) Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2020”.
If there is no “significant and sustainable progress” across the “full range of its action plan” by February 2020, then the watchdog warned that actions could include directions to member nations to advise their financial institutions to “give special attention to business relations and transactions with Pakistan”.
Before the October 2019 plenary, Pakistan’s mutual evaluation report by the Asia Pacific Group, the regional affiliate of FATF, was made public. It showed that there were critical gaps in Pakistan’s efforts to curb flow of funds and restrict activities of proscribed terror groups like JuD and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Meanwhile, Indian officials were also sceptical whether Pakistan would take steps against other terror groups. “It remains to be seen whether Pakistan would take action against other all terrorist entities and individuals operating from territories under its control, and bring perpetrators of cross border terrorist attacks, including in Mumbai and Pathankot to justice expeditiously,” said government sources.